Spring Clean Your Workout Program

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Spring is in the air! At least it is here on the East Coast! This season always signifies renewal and growth. The days are getting longer and warmer. (Thank goodness!) Spring produce is ready to be picked to lighten up our meals. People are beginning to venture outside again.

This is the perfect time to change up your workout routine. It’s a good time to break out of the rut of being stuck inside for months and maybe try new things. A change can bring new energy to your fitness and help you bust through plateaus or ramp up your fitness level to reach new goals. Our bodies adapt to our workouts so after a while you need something new. Plus, I just get bored!

If you think your routine could use a facelift, here are a few ways to change things up.

  1. Go outside. I know, some of you hardcore people always workout outside. More power to you! For the rest of us, we live for the slightest signs of spring as a signal that we can now go do our run around the neighborhood and our squat jumps in the park. Spring is also prime time for road race events so signing up for a local 10k might be just what you need.
  2. Do you workouts in the morning (if you don’t already). With the days getting longer, it gets lighter earlier so it’s easier and safer to exercise outside in the morning. Even if you only have enough time for a quick workout, it’s better than nothing. And getting something done first thing in the morning sets your day up for success and helps you feel accomplished before the day has even started.
  3. Try something new this spring. Go to a new exercise class or join a new running club. Most gyms offer free passes or free trials to try out their facilities so take advantage of that. You might just find your new favorite place.
  4. Buy yourself some new gear. A new pair of shoes or leggings. Maybe a new set of headphones. I don’t know about you but needing to break in a new pair of running tights gets me moving. Also, I you plan to move your workouts outside, you might need some new layers to accommodate the spring weather. Or at least that’s what you can tell yourself when you’re spending money!
  5. Take up a new sport. Look into tennis or golf lessons. Getting your kids or friends involved too can elevate the fun.
  6. Speaking of your kids, try some fun stuff with them too. Go roller skating. Play some backyard soccer. Shoot hoops in the driveway. Anything that gets you and your kids active and having fun is a good thing and sets a great example.

Use this new season as an opportunity to try new things and don’t be afraid to move on if something just isn’t the right fit. Spring can be rebirth so use it!

Happy Exercising!

Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

My husband I were recently discussing a similar topic so I thought I would re-share this blog post from 2017.

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Click here to get a FREE PDF download of high intensity workouts you can do right in your living room!

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

4 Tips for Dealing with Back Pain

If you’re anything like me (almost 46) your low back doesn’t always cooperate with how old you think you are, or feel you are, or wish you were!

I injured my low back in college (tip: don’t jump off a bunkbed) and that combined with my abysmal hip and hamstring flexibility makes me feel like I’m 100 years old when I wake up in the morning. Some days it takes me a good 20 minutes to be able to move fluidly and not look like I should be living in a bell tower.

Since I’ve lived with a creaky back for a really long time I’ve learned what works to keep my back as functional as possible. If you have a specific injury, please follow your doctor’s recommendations.

  1. Bed rest rarely works. Staying active is the best thing you can do. Regular movement improves mobility and blood flow. Stretching will keep you moving and strength training will build your back muscles to help you be able to do more. Building up your core strength will also keep your back from hurting as much in the future. When I take time off from my regular workouts, I definitely feel it.
  2. Stretching. I stretch my back every day. I’m not talking about a lengthy flexibility program (although maybe I should!). Just 30 seconds when I stand up out of bed in the morning. I bend side to side, lean over and reach for my toes, and twist right to left. It isn’t much but it helps me loosen up enough to get to the coffee. When my back gets especially bad, laying prone over an exercise ball so my body is fully supported, helps me stretch and relieves pressure on my back.
  3. Practicing proper posture. I know this is hard sometimes. Especially when you’re tired but sitting and standing straight will help protect your back and the more you practice it, the easier it will become.
  4. Not staying in one spot for too long. I spend a lot of time at my desk writing things like this blog and I have a comfortable chair but sitting in one spot all day makes my back tired and achy. I stand up every so often and stretch and move around. Sometimes I use the dictation feature so I can stand at my desk and still work.

I hate that my back injury makes me feel so old but I know I would feel so much worse if I didn’t actively care for it. Check out this page on my site for more specific stretching and strengthening exercises.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. I can help you with a specific program to strengthen your back if you deal with daily pain. Contact me so we can chat.

3 Signs You’re Not Lifting Enough Weight

fitness-594143_1280Your fitness plan is (or should be) an ongoing process, not a deadline and strength training in particular is meant to be progressive. The way to build strength is to overload your muscles so they are forced to adapt and get stronger. Sometimes, though we get complacent with our routine. It’s easier to stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with than to change up what you’re doing. But….if you’re not seeing results or if your strength training plan is stagnant, something needs to change.

Here are 3 signs you need to increase the weight your lifting.

  1. You could lift your current weight forever. If you count your reps to 10 and stop just because you reached 10, you might need to increase the weight. You don’t need to push your muscles to complete failure with every single set but if you get to 10 reps and could probably do 10 more without even blinking, you need to up the weight. Your strength training routine should be challenging and that means you should be lifting a weight that you can only lift 8-12 times with good form.
  2. Your fitness progress has stalled. A plateau in your progress could be due to a variety of reasons so examine your overall routine carefully but one of the possibilities is not enough weight. Your muscles will eventually adapt to whatever stress you put on them and then it will no longer be a stress. If you’re not lifting heavy enough to tax the muscles then they have no reason to grow. 
  3. If you’re just going through the motions. If you’re moving through your workout mindlessly with no need to concentrate on what you’re doing then you may need to increase your weights. If you’re lifting heavy you have to concentrate to use good form and not drop the weight on your foot. So if you make your mental grocery list while squatting, it’s time to reevaluate.

Don’t be afraid of weight people! Jump start your routine with a weight increase.

If you need a strength training plan to get you started, try these.

Happy Exercising!

Using a Jump Rope for a Good Workout

There’s nothing so humble as a simple piece of rope. 

But it can do wonders for your fitness if you give it a chance. It’s an efficient, versatile and portable piece of equipment that everyone should have. You can use it at home or when you’re with your kids at the park. Take it with you when you travel and you have no more excuses to skip a workout.

 

Don’t use your kids jumprope out of the toy box. You’ll likely trip and face plant…or worse. But you also don’t have to buy an expensive rope with all kinds of bells and whistles. A simple rope with comfortable handles will do the trick. Plastic or beaded ropes are durable and add a little weight making it easier to turn. A rope with bearings in the handles will make the rope turn more smoothly. To make sure the rope is the correct size, step on the middle of it and with handles pulled up taught, they should reach your armpits.

Consider where you jump as well. Hard concrete or tile surfaces will pound your legs and joints so try to jump on carpet, grass or wood floors. Asphalt is ok but definitely better than a concrete sidewalk.

Simply jumping for 10-20 minutes will give you a great workout if you’re new to jumping rope for exercise. You can work up to longer jumping if you want or do intervals of 1 minute jumping, 1 minute rest. That alone is an excellent cardio workout and can be done almost anywhere.

If you want to get more creative you can add other types of jumping into the mix, such as backward jumps, side to side jumps and single foot jumps.

Jumping rope is commonly a conditioning workout or warmup for many athletes and can be for fitness enthusiasts as well. It’ll get your heart rate up fast and leave you breathless and sweaty in no time.

If you’re in the market for a jump rope, you can find some here.  (This is an affiliate link which means if you buy through the link, I earn money.)

Happy Exercising!

 

Fit Gift Ideas

Black Friday is Coming! Black Friday is Coming!

If you have a fit-minded person in your life (or want to give ideas to others for yourself!) here are a few gift ideas to make fitness a little more fun and effective.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means I make money if you click the links and buy the products.)
  1. For that friend who likes to run with music but you want them to be safe.


AfterShokz Trekz Air Bone Conduction Headphones! These headphones are ideal for runners who like to have motivating music on their run but still need to be aware of their surroundings. The Trekz Air use bone conduction technology that leave your ears open for situation awareness. The music is delivered through your cheekbones! How cool is that?? These headphones are made of durable titanium that provides a flexible, secure fit. You can get up to 6 hours of music on a single charge and they have multipoint pairing with Bluetooth connectivity. So you can connect to more than one device. And they come in multiple colors.

2. For the yogi in your life.

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BodyGood Cork Yoga Wheel Accessory Kit. This kit can help you enhance your mobility, flexibility and strength. The wheel and block are made of natural cork so they’re non-slip, water resistant and naturally anti-microbial. The cotton strap helps you ease deeper into your poses. This kit can help you achieve your zen-like flexibility goals in style.

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3. For the space saving home exerciser.

Kettlebell Kings 10-40 lb Adjustable Kettlebell. A versatile kettlebell that can be adjusted in 5 pound increments for a variety of exercises or fitness levels and it takes up minimal space. Easily adjustable with a locking mechanism that keeps the weights safely in place when in use. No worries about accidentally dropping it on your toe. And Kettlebell Kings offers free shipping which is a great deal because shipping 40 pounds worth of product could set you back a mortgage payment!

4. For the protein drink lover.

BlenderBottle Insulated Steel Shaker Bottle. Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 5.47.42 PM.pngThis insulated bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours. It includes a BlenderBall whisk for mixing smooth shakes on the go and a twist-on cap that is guaranteed leak-proof so you can toss the bottle in your gym bag with no worries. It comes in multiple colors and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. This is the perfect addition for your fit friend that is always adding something to their drink.

5. For the friend in need of motivation.

51gnZjSdI-L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgNo Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar. Most of us know fitness is good for us but we all lack motivation at times. This book can help you change your mindset about fitness and exercise. Michelle Segar is a behavior expert that specializes in motivation and has developed a 4 point program to help you find your motivation for health.

 

Happy Exercising! And shopping!

1-Year Anniversary and 3D Pictures

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This is a post I wrote almost 2 years ago and since its Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would share it again…

 

The 1-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery is coming up in a couple days and I’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it all started. With a 3-D mammogram.

Regular mammograms are so important and when I was offered the option to have a 3-D mammogram done, I took it even though I would need to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for it. My insurance only covered part of the screening. I didn’t really know the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D one but my very quick and limited research indicated a 3D mammogram created better pictures.

Traditional mammography takes a single picture versus 3D mammography which takes multiple pictures or slices. The multiple pictures are used to make a 3D image that is clearer and easier to read. These images help detect more cancers and detect them early and help doctors see the size of the cancer easier. It also reduces false positives.

A lot of the research on the effectiveness of a 3D versus traditional mammogram is published by companies that manufacture the screening machines and doesn’t necessarily show a huge difference between them. There is some debate that the more accurate, clearer picture may show abnormalities that require further testing thus producing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Here’s some more information about the greatness of 3D mammograms from breastcancer.org

A study looking at 3 years of data on breast cancer screening with 3-D mammograms has found that the benefits of 3-D mammograms last over time.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2016 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening.”

Benefits of 3D Mammograms Last Over Time

“These findings reaffirm that 3-D mammography is a better mammogram for breast cancer screening,” said Emily Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the senior author of the study. Dr. Conant also is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. “These results are an important step toward informing policies so that all women can receive 3-D mammography for screening.”

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend a 3D mammogram. I was fortunate that my cancer was very small and caught very early. My amazing surgeon indicated that a 3D mammogram was the reason my cancer was caught early. A traditional mammogram may not have caught it and I would have gone a whole year before another screening. In hindsight, the best $50 I EVER spent.

But, sadly, many insurance companies don’t cover the full cost or even part of the cost of a 3-D mammogram. Many women, including me, can afford to pay out-of-pocket fees on top of our insurance coverage to have this more advanced screening but far too many women don’t have that option.

If you have the means, please consider donating to help someone and if you need assistance, here’s a search tool  to help. Please help me spread the word.

*steps off soapbox…

Happy Exercising!